Due to the cancellation of the annual Cairo International Book Fair, AUC Press celebrated witnessing the historic events of the revolution by hosting a book fair in the Tahrir campus.
The fair was held from Thursday, March 31 and extended to Monday, April 4 and featured more than 100 local and foreign exhibitors, open discussions, new publications, book signings, special discounts and entertainment performances.
The minister of culture, Emad Abou Ghazi, opened the fair on March 31 and held an informal press conference and a tour of the book fair. Eight Egyptian AUC Press authors, including Galal Amin, then gave an open discussion about the effects of the Egyptian revolution on freedom of expression and the direction of literature and culture in Oriental Hall. The band
“Wust El-Balad” also performed. Even though the protests in Tahrir Square on Friday were quiet, the fair had to close earlier than scheduled because visitors and exhibitors were concerned for their safety.
On Saturday, crafts activities for children took place in the AUC Press pavilion area.
Rania Hussein Amin, author and illustrator of the children’s book “Farhana,” gave a children’s workshop that included storytelling, an open talk with the kids about the revolution and clay activities in the pavilion area.
Laura Kfoury, the managing director of Elais Modern Publishing House, said: “The book fair at AUC Tahrir campus is a good initiative, everyone is interested and it’s nicely organized … (however) there are (only) a few people because of the revolution events.”
She added that the publishing house had contacted 100 schools but parents were wary about sending their children to Tahrir Square.
A number of performances also took place that day, including blues music, three stand-up comedians – who made jokes about the revolution, the elections and sexual harassment – bands like “Meshwar” and also beat boxing. On Sunday, two discussions were held. The first included teachers and librarians in Oriental Hall who discussed the revolution. Mark Linz, AUC Press Director, said that the discussion “did not have enough participants,” however. The second was a discussion with Egyptian publishers and booksellers. “It covered important questions about the revolution and especially its expected impact on the culture of Egypt,” said Linz.
“(There were) plenty of good suggestions for improving future fairs and cooperating more closely in coming times of uncertainties and opportunities,” he added.
The rain and earthquake that day came as a challenge for Linz and his team and led to some water damage to the book displays.
The book fair was extended to Monday, April 4 due to an increased demand from visitors and exhibitors. The closing ceremony included poetry readings and musical entertainment from “Massaar Egbary” in Ewart Memorial Hall.
While many visitors enjoyed the organization, atmosphere and activities, some of the foreign and Egyptian visitors said that the advertising was inadequate as many people did not know about the event, while others said that some of the books were too expensive. AUC Press promotion manager Nabila Akl considered the fair to be a success and added that it will be organized twice a year.
“More open discussion programs and author readings (will be added) to the program,” added Linz. Some of the books about the revolution that were on sale during the fair included “Tahrir Anniversary Calendar,” Alaa Al Aswany’s book “On the State of Egypt” and “Egypt in the Era of Hosni Mubarak” by Galal Amin. A number of other books about the Middle East and international books written in different languages were also available.
According to Linz, the selection mainly consisted of “international fiction, Egyptian history and biography, as well as educational books and children’s books.”